The use of FAT is important at track meets throughout the State of Hawaii.
FAT or Fully Automated Timing has been used by the Big Island Interscholastic Federation at all its track & field meets since 2003 and has become the premiere method of timing throughout the United States.
Tied into the FAT software is a photo finish camera that captures 1000 pictures per second and sends the results to a database program called Hy-Tek Meet Manager for Track and Field.
Bob Martin, the Technology Coordinator at Ka’u High School and Pahala Elementary School, became instrumental in learning and operating the FAT system.
“When I started working at Ka’u in 2004, Kimo Weaver had just become the Athletic Director, and he noticed my technical abilities and talked me into operating the system with Curt (Beck)”, Martin said.
Beck became involved with BIIF track nine years ago when his son, Robert, ran on the Waiakea team.
“When Robert ran for Waiakea I became a parent volunteer, operating a stop watch at the track meets back in the days when we ran on cinder surfaces at Hilo and HPA,” Beck said.
“Phil Aganus and Bill McMahon put together a FAT team and provided me with training on the FAT system and I’ve been with it ever since,” Beck said.
But in the early, pre Bob Martin years, the FAT system encountered many problems, primarily that they (the FAT team) couldn’t make the system complete all its functions.
Martin became a nationally certified USATF official and his main certification is in FAT/Computing and Competition Secretary. “I am also Chief Photo Finish Operator and Finish Line Coordinator,” he said.
FAT is important because it has enabled many more Big Island runners to make state qualifying times, according to Beck. “FAT has an essentially zero reaction time, unlike a human being with a stop watch. We no longer have to handicap runners by a quarter-second relative to the various state qualifying times to take account of the reaction times of human timers using stop watchers,” he said.
Under the old way of timing track meets stop watches were used to clock all the races, but there is an allowance that needs to be added to all hand times in order to account for delayed reaction starting the clock with the gun.
“If a runner is clocked at 11.24 seconds in the 100 meter dash on a stopwatch we need to round that up to 11.3 seconds and then allow for a .24 second slow reaction, which would make his time 11.54,” Martin explained.
The FAT system takes all the guess work out of timing runners as the gun is hooked into a computer system and the clock at the finish line captures photo images of each contestant in a precise method of timing.
“We no longer have to take long discussions to see who the winner was in a dead heat as it can now be settled in a few seconds using the computer photos. With the FAT system we can literally decide the winner between two runners who are but a jersey’s thickness apart at the finish,” Beck said.
The Hawaii High School Athletic Association will hold its first ever state track & field meet on the Big Island this weekend at Keaau and a large part of the decision to host it at a BIIF site was due to the FAT technology brought to the league by pioneers, Martin and Beck.
“Bob Martin is the undisputed leader of our FAT team. He sees to it that the whole system, from camera image to final meet scoring sheet, works. And then he goes a step farther and posts the results in real time on his website for all to see,” Beck said.
And Martin is equally complimentary of Beck by saying, “Curt is very meticulous to say the least. There is not another photo finish operator that I’ve worked with that has the knowledge of camera alignment and the various tweaks within the Finish lynx program that create pictures as perfect as he does.”
The duo of Martin and Beck are also staffed with an entire crew under the timing tent which include Beverly Beck, Chris Drayer, Kane Thomas and Kayla Nishimura.
“In a short amount of time our crew has mastered the programs that run our track meets,” Martin said.
And for backup the computerized system also has Randee Arkin, who serves as the head finish line timer, using an “old fashioned” hand held timer.
“We are the souls that time men’s tries (with apologies to Thomas Paine),” Arkin said with a smile.
“Randee backs us up in everyone of the running events at every meet and we’ve had to use her times on occasion,” Beck said.
The HHSAA track and field state championship begins this Friday at Keaau with the qualifying heats for each event. On Saturday the championships conclude with event finals.
“Numerous volunteers contribute to the making of a successful track meet and the FAT team is just one of the many, behind the scenes functions,” Beck said.